The Tel Aviv District Court, headed by Judge Boaz Okun, issued on Monday a ground breaking ruling stating that the Israeli Absentee Property Law can not be applied either on the West Bank lands Israel occupied during the 1967 War or the Palestinians who are living there adding that declaring lands owned by West Bank Palestinians as "absentee property" was illegal and canceled.
This ruling means that Israel can not declare a Palestinian land, which was abandoned following the 1967 war, as "land under Israel’s effective sovereignty."
The ruling joins General Attorney Menachem Mazuz’s decision, taken February 2005 which canceled a decision made by the Israeli government to apply the law to privately owned Palestinian property in East Jerusalem owned by Palestinians who live in the West Bank.
The Absentee Property Law was issued in 1950 and was passed in the Knesset following the 1948 War, during which Israel occupied part of Palestine and allowed Israel to expropriate lands which the Palestinians fled from following the war.
The significance of this ruling stems from the fact that under the absentees’ property law, West Bank Palestinians who own land in Jerusalem are considered, "present absentees" and the state of Israel gave itself the right to claim it as "State Property."
West Bank residents are not allowed to enter Jerusalem without special permits and therefore are not able to live on their land that they own in East Jerusalem, which gives the chance for Israel to use this law to expropriate land.
Monday’s ruling came in response to a petition filed by, Noha Dekak and Moussa and Hala Djani, who purchased property in the Beit Hanina neighborhood in East Jerusalem from its Palestinian owner.
According to the Jerusalem municipality and the custodian of absentee property, the property had been declared as absentee property and transferred to the state’s ownership, and therefore could not be registered to a Palestinian.
Okun states that the land could not be declared as "absentee property," and came up with this principal ruling on the Absentee Property Law.
In his ruling Judge Okun stated that the Absentee Law was issued in certain reality that is not applied in this case.
"This law was passed in a certain reality," Okun said "but following the Six day War the entire West Bank population passed under effective Israeli control. Applying this law under these conditions could create a limbo, in which land outside the rule of Israeli law can be annexed by Israel, while its owners are not defined as residents of an enemy state."
"This is a type of judicial stunt which does not reflect any reality," Okun said.
This ruling constitutes a directive ruling for other district courts, but is not as binding as a ruling by the Supreme Court of Justice.